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Goals of Corrections: Perspectives From the Line

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Review Volume: 28 Issue: 1 Dated: Spring 2003 Pages: 47-69
Misty Kifer; Craig Hemmens; Mary K. Stohr
Date Published
23 pages
This article compares the attitudes of correctional officers in a variety of facilities, including jails and different types of prisons.
The four different goals of corrections are retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation. Corrections personnel determine or shape the way the system runs, the quality of services that inmates receive, and the way inmates are treated. If they do not agree with a given policy or practice they can thwart its implementation. It is important to know correctional staff beliefs in order to find better ways to shape them through training or hiring practices. In 1998 and 1999, a three-part survey was administered to staff at five correctional facilities and one jail training academy in a rural mountain state. This article deals with the findings on the third part of the survey, which included items on correctional goal orientation. The results indicate that the jail and prison staff were in general accord as to the primary goal of corrections, as well as the rank ordering of the four potential goals. Incapacitation was favored by prison and jail staff alike, while retribution was least favored by both prison and jail staff. There was some disagreement over the ordering of rehabilitation and deterrence, but the scores for these goals were fairly close. Age, gender, and years of service seemed to affect the degree of support for rehabilitation. Women, older staff, and those with less correctional work experience had a higher level of support for rehabilitation. Those institutions that focused more on custody and control and offered only limited programming contained staff that were generally less supportive of rehabilitation. More research on the impact of institutional mission and subculture, as well as the role of demographic variables that the staff member brings to the corrections workplace, is warranted. 8 tables, 40 references